Tuesday, October 13, 2009

21st Century Skills in Education

As members of the PDS community, we are continually looking for ways to prepare our students for the future. As we all know, however, this is much easier said than done. How do you actually prepare students for the future when they'll be using technology that hasn't been created and doing jobs that do not currently exist? Saying that its a challenge would be the understatement OF the 21st century.

Some of the words that always come to mind to describe the needs of the 21st Century world are as follows: synthesis, collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, adaptability, creativity, curiosity, global awareness, and media fluency. To what extent does the middle school at PDS help students develop these important skills? What do we do well, and what do we need to work on? I'd LOVE to hear your comments.

I definitely have some vivid memories of my middle school experience at Pottsgrove Intermediate School (grades 6-8...with an absolutely horrible acronym used by students on a consistent basis). When I arrived in August 1990, each grade was divided into pods, and the four main classes (English, Science, Social Studies, Math) were taught in one VERY large room divided into classes of 20 by large partitions that looked like the curtains at a theater production. As a means to preparing for this distracting environment, we actually spent time in 5th grade where the entire class would read aloud at once. Did this environment prepare me for the 21st century? When the school closed in 1999 and was replaced by a more "traditional" middle school set-up, does that mean the concept was flawed (the school opened in 1971)? These memories lead me to think about our middle school at PDS. If we were to reopen the middle school at PDS tomorrow and literally start from scratch, what should be different and what should be the same? I'd LOVE to hear your comments. Here are a few of mine:

1. Technology advances at a much faster pace than changes in school curriculum. As a result, schools are slow to take advantage of using technological tools for educational purposes. When we do start using a particular technological tools, students have already moved on to new ones:)

2. Our middle schoolers are "digital natives" where use of technology is second nature. They don't remember a world without cell phones, the Internet, and social networking sites.
3. Our middle schoolers have access to more information in a few seconds than most of us had in all of the pre-Internet years combined. As teachers we no longer "own" the information.
4. In comparison to other areas of society, its amazing how little education has changed. If Rip Van Winkle fell asleep in a classroom 100 years ago and woke up in a modern classroom, he'd have a pretty good idea of what was happening.
5. Great schools adapt to fit the needs, interests, and strengths of its students...not the other way around.
6. Using technology in the classroom doesn't always equal innovative teaching, and innovative teaching is always possible regardless of the amount of technology available (thank you Matt Scully and the innovative team at today's professional day for this point).
Thank you again for reading. Today's experience talking about innovative teaching and the availability of technology to enhance teaching reinforced the pride I feel to be a member of the PDS community. It is a special place filled with educators who are willing to take risks and push themselves outside of their teaching "comfort zones" to enhance the educational experience for each and every PDS student. I look forward to your comments,

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